Sailing: This is crazy. I'm scared. How do we get out of this?

Nearly two weeks into the leg – some 3,000 miles of the wildest ocean conditions imaginable and here we are with five boats within 10 miles or so of each other. We spent the afternoon with three of them in sight.

Nearly two weeks into the leg – some 3,000 miles of the wildest ocean conditions imaginable and here we are with five boats within 10 miles or so of each other. We spent the afternoon with three of them in sight.

We have had our fair share of dramas – a broken wheel, a broken pole end, a full on reverse in huge seas and 30 knots of wind to remove a forest of sea weed off the keel, a wild uncontrolled gybe in the pitch black. I guess the others must have had similar experiences that will keep them in bar talk until the next race – and yet here we are still side by side.

I write this some 800 miles off the Australian coast – we are sailing along in what seem for a change to be almost pleasant conditions. We have made our way out of the worst of the Southern Ocean and the water temperature has soared from 3C to a truly tropical 11. The boys look tired but happy that the weather has improved enough to get into a regular routine and the boat is beginning to dry out.

My memory must be short. It is no more than 10 months since I was down here last, but only now do I remember thinking: "That is definitely the last time I go down there." I guess it's the good bits that linger – the fantastic surfing conditions that go on for days, the huge sense of achievement you get. The terror, freezing cold and total wetness eventually get forgotten.

Anyone who races boats like ours in the Southern Ocean and says they have not been scared is either mad or stupid. I don't mind admitting that in the last 10 days or so I have been terrified on a number if occasions.

Here is just one instance. It is the middle of the night, I am in the navigation station looking at the chart when suddenly the boat rolls violently the wrong way, there's an almighty crash and we are pinned on our side. Once I get my orientation back I fight my way on deck.

It's completely black – a kind of blackness you can't experience any where else – the sails are flapping wildly in a gale and the boat is completely on its side. "This is crazy", I think, "I'm definitely scared now – how the hell are we going to get out of this?"

Head count – five voices tell me every one is still on deck and seemingly in one bit. Nightmare number one is averted – so is nightmare number two, amazingly the mast is still in the boat. Not for long though unless we get the wild beast of a spinnaker down. The noise of the flapping sails is so loud I can't hear a word from anyone. But we all know what to do – get the spinnaker down before it pulls the mast down or destroys itself.

Everyone gets stuck in – the off watch are up now having been rudely awoken by being turned upside down. They know the seriousness of the situation so very little is said.

Disaster recovery mode takes over. In 25 minutes the boat is back on its feet and on course. Another hour of exhausting, freezing work tidying up and putting other down-wind sails up and we are back up to full speed.

Everyone is wet through and tired out, the watch system has been totally messed up – the knock-on effect will deprive all of much-needed sleep for a day or so to come.

Despite this the thing on everyone's mind is, "how much have we lost on the leaders?" My mental arithmetic tells me about 20 miles plus – a huge knock-back but there you go – just another pleasurable Southern Ocean experience.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?